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Uterine Fibroids – what are they and what to do?

It’s Fibroid Awareness Month and we need to talk about uterine fibroids! 

Uterine fibroids (also called leiomyomas) are usually noncancerous growths made up of the muscle and connective tissue from the wall of the uterus. Fibroids can grow as a single nodule (one growth) or in a cluster and can range in size from 1 mm to 20 cm in diameter or even larger. These growths can develop within the wall of the uterus, inside the main cavity of the organ or even on the outer surface.

You may experience a variety of symptoms with uterine fibroids and your treatment plan will depend on each individual case.

Are uterine fibroids common?

Fibroids are a common type of growth in the pelvis and approximately 40 to 80% of women have fibroids. Many women don’t experience any symptoms from their fibroids; therefore, they are unaware they have fibroids, while others can experience discomfort.

Uterine fibroids are not unusual but who is at risk?

There are several factors that can play a role in your chances of developing fibroids. These can include:

  • Family history of fibroids.
  • Obesity and high BMI (a person is considered obese if they’re more than 20% over the healthy body weight).
  • Women who have not had children.
  • Early onset of menstruation.
  • Delayed menopause.

Where do fibroids grow?

There are different names of fibroids based on their location within the uterus. The locations where uterine fibroids can be found include:

  • Submucosal fibroids: fibroids that grow inside the uterine cavity where a fetus develops during pregnancy.
  • Intramural fibroids: These fibroids are embedded into the wall of the uterus itself and grow inside this muscular wall.
  • Subserosal fibroids: Located on the outside of the uterus, these fibroids are connected to the outside wall of the uterus.
  • Pedunculated fibroids: These fibroids are also located on the outside of the uterus. However, pedunculated fibroids are connected to the uterus with a thin stem.

SYMPTOMS AND CAUSES

What causes uterine fibroids?

The causes of fibroids are not known, and most fibroids develop in women of reproductive age.

What are the symptoms of uterine fibroids?

Most small fibroids are asymptomatic fibroids and don’t require treatment other than regular observation by your healthcare provider. Larger fibroids can cause you to experience a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Excessive or painful bleeding during menstruation.
  • Bleeding between your periods.
  • Frequent urination (Fibroids can put pressure on the bladder).
  • Low back pain.
  • Constipation.
  • Chronic vaginal discharge.
  • A feeling of fullness in your lower abdomen/bloating.
  • Pain during sex.
  • Inability to urinate or completely empty of the bladder.

The symptoms of uterine fibroids usually stabilize or go away after you have gone through menopause because hormone levels decline within the body over time.

How are uterine fibroids diagnosed?

In many cases, uterine fibroids are first detected during a pelvic exam and may be found during a gynecologic exam or prenatal care.  A pelvic ultrasound or can be done to confirm fibroids and determine their size and location.

MANAGEMENT AND TREATMENT

Treatment for uterine fibroids can vary depending on the size, number, and location of the fibroids, as well as what symptoms they are causing. Fibroids can be monitored closely over time, and periodic pelvic exams and ultrasound may be recommended by a healthcare provider depending on the size or symptoms of the fibroid.

If you are experiencing symptoms of possible fibroids – including anemia from the excess bleeding, moderate to severe pain, infertility issues – treatment may be needed to help.

Here at Tripod Fertility, we help our patients navigate any fibroid-related issues.  Seek infertility help by contacting us today to speak with one of our fertility specialists about uterine fibroids. You are never alone.